Residents of the vast majority of California’s 58 counties should wear masks, according to the CDC. That’s because 40 of those counties are now designated as communities with “high” Covid levels. Less than a month ago, the number was 13.
However, the decision to return to mandatory face coverings is not up to the CDC, but up to local health authorities. The CDC guidelines are only a strong recommendation.
The counties in question have about 20 million inhabitants and include Ventura, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento and Fresno.
The state’s most populous region, Los Angeles, isn’t on the list, but it may not be for long.
“With our case count and hospital admissions soaring, we have new concerns about the impact of Covid and it’s more likely we’ll be able to get to that high community level somewhere this summer,” LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said yesterday. According to Ferrer, Los Angeles will exceed that threshold based on hospitalizations on July 19, according to the latest projections. See chart below.
If the $10 million county were to enter the high community level and stay there for two weeks, Ferrer has repeatedly said that the public health department, which is doing having the power to re-establish a mask mandate would do that.
Cases are increasing statewide and are now at the same level as December 20, during last winter’s original Omicron wave: about 15,000 recorded per day. But experts say that number is almost certainly an undercount, because it doesn’t take into account the results of over-the-counter tests that are now much more widely used.
More troubling is the state’s positivity rate, which stands at 14.8% today. That’s an 18% increase over the past week, a big jump for a number that’s a percentage and averaged over seven days to smooth out data bottlenecks. Current test positivity is already above last summer’s peak, gaining at the winter peak of 22.5%.
Even Covid-related hospital admissions, which leveled off just under 1,000 for weeks in the spring, are starting to rise significantly again, to around 3,500.
As for the next step, with two new, more transferable variants in BA.4 and BA.5 and a long holiday weekend approaching: “All the information so far indicates that we need to prepare for the likelihood of significant transfer in the coming weeks,” Ferrer said.